Junior doctors are to take further industrial action, with plans to walk out on three further dates for 48 hours at a time.
The British Medical Association (BMA) also announced it is to seek a judicial review in to the Government’s plans to impose “unfair” new contracts on junior doctors.
The industrial action will mean junior doctors will provide emergency care only from 8am on Wednesday March 9 to 8am on Friday March 11, from 8am on Wednesday April 6 to 8am on Friday April 8, and from 8am on Tuesday April 26 to 8am on Thursday April 28.
The BMA said it was launching a judicial review after finding that the Government appears to have failed to undertake an Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) prior to its decision to impose a new contract on junior doctors in England.
It said that under the Equality Act 2010, the Government must show “due regard” to equalities issues, typically assessed through an EIA prior to making a decision.
But it added that the Government has failed to provide evidence of an EIA having been conducted ahead of its decision on February 11 to impose a contract on junior doctors from this August.
The announcement about the latest strikes follows two other walkouts, but just last week medics said they believed a fully-negotiated contract for junior doctors was ”within reach” as they urged Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to resume talks over the dispute following deadlock between the BMA, Government officials and NHS Employers.
The major sticking point has been over weekend pay and whether Saturdays should attract extra “unsocial” payments. Currently, 7pm to 7am Monday to Friday and the whole of Saturday and Sunday attract a premium rate of pay for junior doctors.
Dr Johann Malawana, BMA junior doctor committee chairman, said: “Imposing this contract will seriously undermine the ability of the NHS to recruit and retain junior doctors in areas of medicine with the most unsocial hours, where there are already staffing shortages. This will have a significant impact on areas such as emergency medicine, maternity care and paediatrics, to name but a few.”
He added: “The fact is, junior doctors already work around the clock, seven days a week and they do so under their existing contract. If the Government wants more seven-day services then, quite simply, it needs more doctors, nurses and support staff, and the extra investment necessary to deliver them.”
Prime Minister David Cameron’s official spokeswoman said: “We have been clear throughout discussions with junior doctors that we want to work with them to look at how we bring about a seven-day NHS which we think is in the interests of patients.
“It’s regrettable if they are going to strike again. I’m sure discussions with them will continue.”